Erin's Reviews > A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
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's review
Aug 01, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: adult, diary-journal, historical, girl-main-character, non-fiction, medical, re-readable
Read in January, 2003

This is one of the first historical nonfiction books I read that I enjoyed. I read it years ago, but I still own a copy and have never forgotten the impression this book made on me that history can be interesting, that the most mundane details can be interpreted to mean something significant, and that history often ignores those who have no voice.

The book began a lifelong fascination with medical history in general and women's medical history specifically. I found this book to be well-written and engaging. There are surprising details, such as Martha's low mortality rate among her patients, that after examination, really shouldn't be so surprising. This book challenges a lot of assumptions that people have about history in general, and historical writing in particular.

I'm re-reading this, and love this bit: "The problem is not that the diary is trivial, but that it introduces more stories than can easily be recovered and absorbed."

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